Cross rollerskates with guns, and you have one of the most entertaining bloodsports of the future.
The year is 2030 and you’re Kara Hassan, a rookie taking place in their first Rollerdrome season. As sports go, the rules are relatively simple: defeat your opponents while skating around an arena performing tricks. But there’s a rather important catch. This is a violent sport where poor performance is more than likely to result in death.
Imagine Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with guns – that’s essentially Rollerdrome. Zipping around arenas on your rollerskates, performing combos in pursuit of a high score is the ultimate goal. But as well as pulling off a wide range of tricks including grabs, flips and grinds, killing what are called House Players with skill is just as important in your endeavours.
In the game’s campaign mode you’ll move from one arena to another, with your progress gated by the completion of challenges. You might need to perform a certain trick, for example, kill a House Player in a specific way, or simply reach a target score. Chances are you’re not going to finish all the challenges an event offers in one run. In fact, in some cases it’s impossible.
Take the starting weapon, the dual pistols, for example: you might be tasked with taking down a Warhead-type House Player with them, one that fires rockets and shield themselves shortly after taking damage. But you might also be tasked with completing the entire event using only the Grenade Launcher. To complete all challenges, then, you’re going to have to complete some events numerous times.
In any case, success requires a careful balance between killing and showing off your skating skills. Ammo is very limited, you see, perhaps overly so, and the only way to replenish it is to perform tricks. Throw in additional gameplay quirks such as slow-mo and a handy dodge ability, and you have all the ingredients required to make something that feels flashy, stylish and entirely unique.
In what other game can you take down a bat-wielding goon while soaring through the air with dual-wielded pistols blaring, landing gracefully before jumping up a ramp, rotating and flipping while performing a grab, then enabling slow-mo, switching to the shotgun, and taking down a sniper with a well timed slug-shot? None. That’s the answer.
But make no mistake, Rollerdrome is a challenging game. As you move through the various stages of the competition, the challenge really ramps up. Your enemies not only become more numerous, but they even get more outlandish and geared up. While your opponents are initially lightly armed, by the end they have laser guns, mech suits and more.
Of course, you get better equipped to deal with them, with four weapons eventually making up your arsenal. You’ll also develop your skills, learning to dodge just at the right time so you can trigger Super Reflex Time in which you do more damage. You also don’t have to worry too much about messing up when it comes to tricks. You can’t bail here like you do in Tony Hawk’s Pro Stater et al. Mess up and at worst you’ll land a bit awkwardly, letting you concentrate on the killing.
For those who find everything a bit too challenging, Rollerdrome has a whole host of lifelines. Go into the Assist menu and there are toggles for things such as invincibility, infinite ammo, infinite slow-mo, and more. Your score won’t be uploaded to the leaderboards when using these, but they’re great for allowing all players to at least make it through the campaign and have some fun.
And that fun doesn’t have to end once the main campaign is over. Essentially New Game Plus, completing Rollerdrome opens up Out for Blood, a second campaign where you play through the same locations but with new enemy placements, all weapons unlocked from the outset and increased difficulty. It’s a neat way of giving the game extra longevity, with new challenges also thrown in to boot.
There are some aspects of Rollerdome that some might not impress all players, though. There’s its story, for instance, which feels pretty inconsequential. There are some interesting threads here, but they ultimately lead to nothing. The game’s later events can feel a little too chaotic, too, with attacks coming in from every direction, bewildering the senses. And as mentioned previously, you might get fed up of the miniscule amount of ammo you can have for some of your guns.
Still, with its wonderful art style and a thrilling soundtrack that is sure to get a foot tapping, the good in Rollerdrome far outweighs the bad. This is a slick production with some brilliant ideas and solid execution. It’s a game that truly manages to make you feel like a badass as you speedily dart around each arena while taking apart the House Players with carefully aimed attacks. Complete an event in one continuous combo and you’ll feel like a god.
If you’ve ever wondered what the combination of an extreme sports title and a third-person shooter would be like, Rollerdrome is the game for you. Its story might be a let-down, and some gameplay elements might not hit the mark as well as they should do, but on the whole this is a thoroughly original and entertaining affair. We hope we get to spend more time with Kara in the future, too, as there’s a lot of scope here for further violent high-octane antics.